I still remember when I knew nothing about making soap and didn't know where to even find the ingredients to do it. Now I've successfully had to run from my kitchen to escape lye solution fumes countless times, made stinky soap trying to mix my own essential oils, created such wretched soap colors that you feel dirtier when you use the bars, yet created some soaps that are so creamy that friends can't believe it was home-made (myself included), so I think I can consider myself an amateur soaper.
I prefer cold process because it doesn't require babysitting, but hot process definitely is better if you have less patience and want your soap now, NOW, NOW! (now, NOW, NOW in soap time = 6 to 8 hours) Cold process takes a month of agonizing waiting... unless you forget about your soap, like I often do, and then find it again in your garage where it's curing as a pleasant surprise a month or two later.
This is my most recent recipe to try out my new Ocean Rain fragrance oil from Brambleberry.com. I always use Soapcalc.net to create my soap recipes and make sure that they are within all the tolerances. And, yes, I render my own tallow. You can get tallow for free from any butcher. Just call them in the morning before they start cutting all the meat and ask them to save the fat for you since they just throw it out anyway. I always get mine from Whole Foods since I imagine their beef is either local, organic, or in some way more environmentally conscious than other butchers.
Stacey's Soap Recipe #B1 (b for blog) with Ocean Rain scent:
0.84 lbs Beef Tallow
0.12 lbs Palm Oil (I used shortening from Whole Foods)
0.23 lbs Palm Kernel Oil
0.11 lbs Coconut Oil, 76 deg.
0.35 lbs Castor Oil
0.35 lbs Olive Oil, organic
0.76 lbs distilled water
0.275 lbs Lye (NaOH)
2 oz Ocean Rain fragrance oil
Pinch of powdered water-soluble blue food coloring in a few drops of water
Glossy Tray Mold
I will not pretend that I pull out all the safety stops when I'm making my lye solution. But, you definitely should. This is where I learned how to make a lye solution and they have all the safety instructions:
And here's where I got my lye:
I have found though, that putting your lye mixing container in an ice bath definitely helps it to cool faster. And just a reminder, ALWAYS add the lye granules to water, and not the other way around. It takes a while to cool, so I made the lye solution first.
After the liquid oils were melted (try to watch the temperature and don't let it get too hot - there will still be some solid chunks around 135F, but you should let them melt by the heat of the rest of the oil), I turned off the stove and added the liquid oils. And of course, all my temperature checking is done with my handy-dandy temp gun.
Once the lye solution and oil mixture got down to around 100F, I added the lye solution to the pot of oil and used my soap-dedicated immersion blender to get the soap to trace.
A week later, I cut up the block into bars. Here is one of the bars. Now I just have to wait another 3 weeks to use it...
Soap has been curing for a month now and is ready to use. Can't really tell from the picture, but it's hard at this point. When I cut it 3 weeks ago, it was easy to cut and a little mushy still.